June 9, 2015 |
ELMONT, N.Y. - Racetrack lifers, those who knew Bob Baffert well enough to wander inside Barn 1 at Belmont Park, congregated in a corner as American Pharoah walked around the shed row. One guy held Baffert's coffee while the trainer signed a Belmont Stakes program for him. Out on Hempstead Turnpike, just over a fence, traffic spilled by, past a Wendy's and a Subway across the street, which seemed a world away. Inside the fence, there was an air of contentment. Why would the glow wear off?
May 17, 2015 |
BALTIMORE - The Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes may be more glamorous, but it's the Preakness alone that can transform three distinct races into a Triple Crown. When Derby winners falter at Pimlico, the anticipation and curiosity that animate the three races disappears. Whatever happened at Churchill Downs two weeks earlier fades from memory. And June's climactic Belmont is instead anticlimactic. So, in addition to jockey Victor Espinoza, American Pharoah will carry that burden for the troubled sport late Saturday afternoon when he heads a bifurcated field of eight 3-year-olds in the 140th Preakness.
May 5, 2015 |
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - His two Kentucky Derby horses had been off the track and back in their stalls for an hour Wednesday morning. The day's work was done, but Bob Baffert was not inclined to leave, so the Hall of Fame trainer held court for a good hour. Even as the listeners dissipated to just a handful, Baffert kept talking, with or without questions. He was reliving his training life generally, his Derby life specifically - Cavonnier's nose loss in 1996 when he was sure he would never get another chance, the three wins in six years from 1997 to 2002, the terrible disappointment with Point Given in 2001.
May 1, 2015 |
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - If you do not have a betting interest in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, root for International Star. With 20 horses come 20 stories about the people who are around the horse. None is better than the story of Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the husband and wife team for 57 years who decided late in life to chase a horse racing dream and have beaten the odds in every way but one. The Ramseys grew up in Artemus, Ky. (pop. 500), down in the southeastern part of the state. Ken was a truck driver, which he parlayed into owning a trucking company followed by a real estate business and a bunch of cell towers.
May 19, 2014 |
Each spring at Triple Crown time, when thoroughbred racing briefly flowers on the American sports landscape like an exquisite azalea, I think of Joe Bummer. His actual name escapes me these four-plus decades later, but I'm certain it couldn't have described him any better than the nickname my friends and I gave him. (The actual name we called him was a Yiddish word for perennial dissatisfaction, but after 40-some years I can neither pronounce nor recall it.) Joe was a railbird at Garden State Park and Brandywine Raceway.
May 5, 2014 |
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A decade ago, Churchill Downs was in the midst of a major renovation. A few hours before the 2004 Kentucky Derby, it really looked as if the world might end - lightning, thunder, a deluge. The area was quickly becoming a construction zone/flood zone. John Servis was waiting out the final hours in the barn, not far from the stall that housed the unbeaten Pennsylvania-bred Smarty Jones owned by Roy and Pat Chapman. The Philadelphia Park-based trainer had guided the Arkansas Derby to this moment flawlessly.
May 1, 2014 |
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Nearly a half century of Aprils have passed since 18-year-old stablehand Art Sherman shared a sleeping bag with a groom on a 4-day cross-country train ride destined for Churchill Downs. They were accompanying the best race horse ever born in California to his date with Kentucky Derby glory. The legendary Swaps, who would eventually set six world records, upset the heavily favored Nashua in the 1955 Derby. A once-in-a-lifetime horse, Swaps would eventually get a statue at Hollywood Park and a permanent place in the heart of that teenager who would become his exercise rider.
April 28, 2014 |
The race itself, Stewart Elliott still insists, was like most any other. "You're just riding," Elliott said. "It doesn't sound right, but you're just riding a race. " Even if it's the Kentucky Derby, and you're riding in it for the first time, on a favorite named Smarty Jones. If all that's true, if there's no moment to process what's happening, even in the final strides, the result hits you like an emotional ton of bricks, when you realize you've ridden it correctly and won the 2004 Kentucky Derby.
May 10, 2013 |
Kentucky Derby winner Orb pleased trainer Shug McGaughey on Thursday with a steady workout on a sloppy track at Belmont Park. "He jogged three-eighths to a half-mile and galloped a mile. I thought everything was good," said McGaughey, whose colt had jogged a mile Wednesday at the track in Elmont, N.Y., in his first workout since his 21/2-length victory at Churchill Downs on Saturday. "The track was still sloppy," he said. "[Exercise rider Jenn Patterson] said he was kind of bucking and playing and jumping the water puddles on the backstretch.
May 5, 2013 |
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The four of them will be sitting on Millionaires Row, which only begins to hint at their real worth, and rooting for a horse named Normandy Invasion. "If he's as lucky as the rest of us," said 90-year-old Ray Woods, with a nod toward his friends, "he'll win. " Woods and the others will be rooting for Rick Porter's bay at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday because of what the horse owner has done for vets. For most of his 20 years in the business, the ex-soldier has been naming horses to honor veterans.